THE FRANCHISE by Michael MacCambridge


A History of Sports Illustrated Magazine
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 Former Daily Variety reporter and newspaper columnist MacCambridge makes an entertaining debut with the story of one of America's most successful magazines. When discussions leading to its creation began in 1952, Sports Illustrated was an unlikely expression of Henry Luce's desire to add a new magazine to the Time-Life stable--unlikely because none of the Luce staff were sports fans. Indeed, in 1954 when the first issue hit the stands, most sports fans were more blue-collar than blue-blood; the big boom in the spectator sports business was about to happen, fueled by Eisenhower-era prosperity, the suburbs, and television. Sports Illustrated, after a very rocky beginning, would be a major factor in that explosion. What set the SI ship aright was the arrival of Andre Laguerre as the magazine's managing editor. Laguerre was an improbable leader for this publication, a former confidant of Charles de Gaulle, witty and urbane, schooled in the complexities of European politics. But the former journalistic boy wonder was also an astute judge of writing talent and a flinty but sympathetic leader whose staff quickly became unswervingly loyal. He assembled a team of superb sportswriters, heavily inflected by a group of Texans that included the brilliant Dan Jenkins. The result was a risk-taking, visually breathtaking magazine, featuring a consistently high quality of writing. SI helped make it respectable to follow spectator sports and changed the way that they were covered. But no Camelot lasts for ever. As MacCambridge astutely observes, the magazine was the victim of a gradual shift not unlike the one occurring in the sports it covered, with money and marketing becoming the forces that drove the vehicle; editors became more important than writers, pictures than prose, and tie-ins than quality. MacCambridge tells this story sympathetically and wittily. At its best, this is an entertaining, even poignant, portrait of the rise and not-quite-fall (but very real slippage) of an institution in American publishing.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-7868-6216-5
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1997


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